We headed to the nearby hospital (Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre) yesterday to meet up with the staff I hope to be volunteering with whilst here. They were very keen for Zoe, Zac & Adam to come to visit the outpatient rehab centre too so we all piled into a 4wd & bumped & lurched our way to the centre. Zoe & Zac thought the dirt roads were lots of fun & laughed the whole way. The rehab centre, called Plaster House, is a centre where children from remote areas of Tanzania stay whilst recovering from plastic & orthopaedic surgery. Unless they are breastfeeding babies, the poor little things are there without their families, for weeks to months. Children stay on site for their recovery to ensure they receive all the necessary follow up as distance usually makes this very difficult & creates many complications. There are 4 house mothers that care for them, 1 Tanzanian occupational therapist, a lovely health administrator & the coordinator who is an Australian OT (Sarah). Swahili or Maa is spoken by most of the kids but some understand English. They are so cute with their gorgeous big brown eyes & shy white smiles. There are some very severe burn victims there with terrible scars & contractures that have or are to be released. One poor little 11 year old had a seizure at age 4 and fell into a fire. His face arms & hands were badly burnt. They had to amputate one arm but are reconstructing his face & are "growing" him a nose graft on his arm for transfer in September. Despite all this, he bounded up to us, full of confidence. What an inspiration! Lots of the children are in serial leg plasters...hence the name Plaster House... for correction of club foot & bony deformities from a common condition here called fluorosis. Excessive fluoride in the drinking water causes bones to become weak & they can then bend. The centre has 19 beds but has squished in up to 103 children at its peak so the need is very real. It's very sad to see that so much of these childrens' problems could be prevented through better drinking water & education on the prevention of burns contractures (....hmmm, some good project material there!). I am still working out how I can best help (visas permitting) in a sustainable way but splinting, scar managment, rehab for those out of plaster and education are all likely needs. I will be visiting the ortho round on Monday at the hospital & I'm very keen to get involved with the outreach program where they visit remote communities to educate them on how intervention may be able to assist those with disabilities.
Adam, Zoe & Zac can come along when I am at Plaster House which will be great. Adam is keen to help on the days he's not with his organisation with activity programs & English lessons for the kids who can be bed or chair bound for weeks or months.
Zoe & Zac coped really well with what they saw & after only a short time were playing with the children. Zoe was full of "whys" afterwards & I think it's going to be wonderful for them to learn not to judge or fear people based on appearance & how very lucky we are in Australia.